Not Quite What I’d Planned…

Yesterday was the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/Mini Marathon, a day we had planned for since last summer.  We had a group of 20 runners who had planned our weekend together, and most in our group were running their first half marathon.  There were at least 5-10 other runners from Tell City who would also be running.  What a great representation our small town had at a big city race.  My husband, Gary, was running the full marathon; it was so important to him to have a good run, and we were all excited for him.

Since February, I have had several illnesses/injuries.  This is unlike me; I typically have a cold or two each winter, but overall, I am pretty healthy.  Not this year.  I have had a sinus infection, the flu, a stomach virus, IT band problems, and most recently, a pretty nasty eye infection.  That infection erupted the week of the race.  Great.  Two visits to the opthalmologist. and it seemed to be under control, but not completely healed.  I had also been babying the IT issue: two visits to the orthopedic doctor, a visit to the chiropractor, tape, stretching, rolling, and Motrin.  I wanted to run this race well, and had trained for months.  I was going to run this race, even if it was with one eye and a limp.

Raceday morning I taped up, took my Motrin, put on compression socks (that I happened to find in a nice pink plaid), and felt good.  I was able to get my contacts in, which was another plus.  I did not want to run wearing my glasses.  The excitement that morning was so very motivating.  The ‘newbies’ were nervous, and anxious to get started.  We took the token photo, and all headed to our assigned corrals.  Jackie and I were in corral B, so we took our places together.  I ran my last half marathon in 1:59:43, breaking two hours for the first time.  My goal for Derby was 1:58, which meant I needed a 9:00 pace.  The National Anthem was sung, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the gun when off.  I felt great!  I was running an 8:45 pace, and felt I would be able to maintain that pace.  It was also enough cushion that if I slowed later, I could still meet my goal.  With about 16,000 runners, the momentum helped move me along.  I had strategically planned my playlist, and felt energized by my music.

When I hit the four mile mark, my knee began to hurt, but it was tolerable.  The further I went, the worse the pain.  I started to think that I would not be finishing the race, but I was still maintaining my pace, and I just kept praying.  I just wanted the pain to stop.  I had already calculated that if I maintained an 8:45 pace, I would finish in 1:55, which would be incredible.  Please, God, just make the pain go away.  It didn’t.  It continued to worsen.  As we descended down a tunnel into Churchill Downs, the downhill caused pain that stopped me in my tracks.  I walked through the tunnel, and then tried to run again as we came out into the infield.  I couldn’t run.  I walked a little, and then tried to run again.  Pain ripped through my knee.  I thought to myself This is stupid.  You have to stop.  That’s it.  I can’t do it.  I can’t do it.  Dammit, I can’t do it.  I was done.  I had run eight miles, and could go no further.  As the other runners trotted by, the tears began.  I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get back downtown, but I knew I couldn’t walk five miles.  I had told our friend, Bob Walsh, that I might have to call him to come get me, but I did not want to make that call.

I found a police officer, and asked how I could get back.  He said he could have EMS take me, but I was not about to do that.  I wasn’t dying.  He told me where the best place to meet Bob would be, and, of course, it was about 1/2 mile walk.  I began walking away from the race.  As I walked, I cried.  The months of training were wasted.  I was so disappointed.  I was not going to meet my goal, not going to get a medal, and I would not be there to see all of my friends finish.  And when I did see them, I needed to be excited for them, and I knew how hard that would be because I was so damn upset.  I began to let people know that I had stopped because I knew they were tracking my progress.  I finally made it to a corner where I would meet Bob.  Because of all the streets being closed, he had to take the long way around, and it took about an hour and a half from the time I first called, until he arrived.  I just sat on the corner by myself, looking quite out of place in my pink and black running outfit and a bib number plastered to my front.

Bob took me back to the hotel, and by that time, I could hardly walk.  I limped up to my room, stopping every few steps as pain stabbed my knee, with tears streaming down my face.  I just wanted to crawl in the bed and stay there.  If you are a non-runner, it might seem a bit over-dramatic.  If you’re a runner, you get it.  Rather than crawl in bed, I had to change into warm clothes, and get back to the course.  I still had friends to support, and my husband to cheer on.  I made my way back to the race area, but it took quite awhile because walking was painful.  As I ran into friends along the way, I tried to keep my composure while congratulating them (I didn’t do very well).  I finally made it to the area where I had planned to wait for Gary.  I kept getting my text alerts as my friends finished.  They were all doing so well.

I am so very proud of all of the Tell City runners!  Every single first-timer met his or her goals, and just did an amazing job.  I think they are all hooked!  Others knocked time off their previous runs.  As I spent time with my friends who were staying to wait for Gary, their enthusiasm began to cheer me up.  As I read the messages from people on Facebook, I felt so blessed that I had so much support.  The kindness was overwhelming.  I also received this great text from my daughter Morgan:  You are finishing through all the people you coached – that’s your real success.  She has no idea what those words meant.  This wasn’t my day.  My friend Breanne said that God had another purpose for me that day.  I guess He did.  I do believe there are lessons in every circumstance.  And, though I am still disappointed, I will not stop.  I am going to take some time to heal this stupid IT band, and am already planning for a fall half marathon.  I will run the St. Louis Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on October 27.  And now that I know I can run an 8:45 pace, that will be my goal.

What about Gary?  Well, he is incredible.  Truly.  He finished a full marathon in under six hours, which was his goal.  I was able to run the final block to the finish line with him (Gosh, it hurt like hell!), but I would not trade that moment with my husband for anything.  He has an artificial knee, and was told he could not run on it.  Really?  He just did.  I am so proud of his hard work, dedication, and determination.

We’re both moving pretty slowly today.  He is sore and tired, and my knee hurts.  Non-runners might ask why on earth we’d put ourselves through all of this.  Sometimes I ask myself the same question.  But, I will continue to run, to train, and to try to meet goals.  I can’t imagine life without running.  It has provided meaning; it has provided friendships that are unbeatable; and it has made me a stronger person.  So, I will be back.  I will continue to run races.  And I will continue to challenge myself.  Just not today.  Today, I’m taking a nap.

I cannot end this blog without congratulating my wonderful running team:  Jackie, Kassi, Kathy, Breanne, Tyler, Breanne, Blair, Danielle, Heidi, Derrick, Kara, Jennifer, Lisa, Tomi Jo, Krystal, Debbie, and Gary………….I am so incredibly proud to call all of you my friends!  Thanks for sharing this weekend with me.  I hope it’s the first of many.  St. Louis, anyone?

And, Bob Walsh, thanks for saving my butt!  I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you.  Sherry, Cathy, Caroline, and Scott, thanks for coming and supporting all of us!  Chris Hollinden, thank you so very much for coming to the race, running a few miles with Gary, and helping keep him on track to meet his goal.  And all of you who posted such kind words or texted me, Thank You!

For the Love of Running

Along with most US citizens, my heart has been with everyone who was affected by the bombing at the Boston Marathon Monday.  As a runner, I ached for those runners who had family members – who were there to support them – injured or killed.  I was so sorry for the over 4000 runners who didn’t cross that finish line.  Their dreams were stolen by a couple of thugs.  The countless hours of training they had put in, seemingly wasted.  Time away from families so they could log miles…all for naught.

One of my favorite aspects of being a runner is that I belong to an incredible community.  Runners are truly supportive of one another.  It doesn’t matter if one runs a 6 minute pace or a 13 minute pace, we are all runners.  We have all had fantastic runs that we can’t wait to post on Facebook, and painful runs that make us think we will never run again. We cheer just as loudly for the last person to cross the finish line, as we did for the first.   We all watched in disbelief as two explosions rocked the finish line at the ultimate marathon, The Boston Marathon.  While I will never run Boston, I feel a connection with those who are able to, for they represent the epitome of running.  When they are hurt, I hurt.  I might not run Boston, or any other marathon, but I know what it feels like to run my race with the crowds cheering, and I know what it feels like to cross the finish line, meeting a goal I set for myself.  I know how special it is to have family and friends on the sidelines, clapping and yelling as I run past.  I do not know what it is like to have evil show up at a race.  And, dear God, I pray I never do.

I assume (and have been told) that non-runners don’t really ‘get’ us.  Why do we love running?  I actually wondered that myself this morning as I drove home after my 8-miler.  I was having a bad allergy day; my left eye was red, swollen, and dripping.  I have struggled with an IT band injury for months, and it hurt beginning at mile 5 today.  I have had a hip injury, stomach issues, and terribly sore muscles.  I have put in hours upon hours of time, just to run.  Life without running?  It would suck.  It’s what I love.  I ran with a good friend this morning, and the miles passed quickly as we caught up with one another’s lives.  I was able to enjoy the beautiful morning.  Running makes me happy.  It cures a bad mood, celebrates accomplishments, and feeds the body and soul.  It’s time with friends, time alone, and time for reflection.  Running is exhausting and invigorating, frustrating and fulfilling.

This week when I visited my orthopedic doctor, he told me my IT band problem could cause me to have to stop running.  Completely.  Those words cause panic.  Not run?  But all of my friends run.  What would I do if I couldn’t run?  I enjoy other forms of exercise, but nothing as much as running.   It is such a huge part of my life; I cannot even imagine not running.  Sorry, Doc, I can’t stop.  I will do whatever it takes to continue.

One week from today, 15 of my friends, my husband, and I will be running the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon (my husband is running the full).  For many of my friends, it will be their first 13.1.  While I am excited for my run, I am even more excited for them.  I know what it feels like to complete 13.1 miles in a race, and I want that experience for them.  I can’t wait to hear about their runs, and to hear the excitement and pride in their voices when they say “I did it!”  And I can just about guarantee they will all do it again.  We will all run for Boston:  for those who didn’t get to finish their races, for those who were injured or killed, and for those whose lives were forever changed.  We will run because we will not let the evil in this world steal what we love to do.  They will not win.

To Our Running Group:  Kick Ass!  You will all do great!  I have so much confidence in each of you.  You have done the work; it’s almost time to reap the rewards (which happens to be a highly-valued race medal).  Best of luck, Lisa, Kathy, Kassi, Jackie, Breanne, Tyler, Breanne, Blair, Heidi, Derrick, Debbie, Danielle, Patrick, Jennifer, and Kara!!

To My Husband:  I hope you know how proud I am of you!  A marathon?  On an artificial knee?  You rock!  I wish you the very best, and can’t wait to meet you at the finish.  You are an inspiration to so many, and I am blessed to be your wife!